People have asked how I get Jeff to go meatless on Mondays.
The truth is, I don’t.
I look for recipes that can work for both of us, like pastas and pizzas, omelets and stir-frys, panini and quesadillas. The latest addition is this Butternut Squash Casserole. My meatless half is warm butternut squash boiled with a few handfuls of fresh spinach and baked with buttery onions, buttermilk, eggs, bread crumbs, cheddar, thyme and toasted pumpkin seeds. Filling, but not heavy.
For Jeff’s half, I skip the spinach and seeds and add a layer of hot Italian sausage.
One tip: If you’re making a meal you know your dining partner loves, like pasta, you can supplement their plate with a healthy meat. HOWEVER, if you’re introducing something fairly new to them, like butternut squash, you might want to sweeten the deal with a little meat candy (aka sausage and bacon).
Bacon beats nagging any day.
Butternut Squash Casserole
Adapted from Matt and Ted Lee’s “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook”
Serves 8 to 10 people
- 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 6 cups)
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, trimmed, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
- 1 cup whole or low-fat buttermilk
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs, toasted
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or pecans, toasted
- 2 cups coarsely grated cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
- Optional: 4 to 6 large handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and stemmed (add to the same water as the squash in step 2 during the last minute of boiling)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking dish or 4-quart casserole.
- Place 3 quarts water in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the squash to the water, return to a boil, and cook for 6 minutes. The squash will turn a deeper orange. Drain it and set aside.
- Melt the butter in the stockpot and add the oil. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent and limp, about 8 minutes, stirring to prevent browning. Add the warm squash and the buttermilk, eggs, thyme, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 1/8 cup pumpkin seeds and 1 1/3 cups cheese. Blend with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients are well combined.
- Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 cup pumpkin seeds and 2/3 cup cheese. Bake 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Not-So-Meatless Sausage Squash Casserole Variation: Follow the recipe above (minus the spinach), but use 2 1/2 pounds squash and 1 pound hot Italian sausage, cut on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick pieces and seared in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until golden brown. Add the sausage to the squash mixture in step 3 and complete the recipe as above.